Bruce Lisman: Vermonters Burdened By Absence Of Government Ethics Standards
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Once again the Vermont Legislature has adjourned and once again it has failed to enact meaningful ethics reforms. A comprehensive ethics package would not be the last step towards good government. It’s the first step toward reminding us all that our Legislature and executive branches of government work for the people not the other way around.
The latest case in point is the unfolding EB-5 scandal in the Northeast Kingdom. Our state and the struggling region embraced the seemingly inspiring vision of developers who were raising funds from overseas investors in a program supposedly regulated by the state and federal government.
The people of the Northeast Kingdom trusted their state government to provide supervision and accountability so that a series of new projects would be built to inject economic prosperity. But the state let them down.
Two years of investigative reporting by Anne Galloway of VTDigger.org raised serious questions about the development projects, and as Vermont Public Radio’s Peter Hirschfeld reported and documented, “Federal authorities launched an investigation into Jay Peak’s EB-5 projects nearly a year before state officials had their first inkling that something illegal was afoot.”
The Shumlin administration should have been developing a robust process for scrutinizing the offering documents and business plans. Instead, the governor and his aides went on marketing trips to Asia to promote the projects to investors, offering the empty promise that the state would audit the projects.